Annual Detroit Lions charity softball game touches bases for fun, camaraderie

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

Dearborn — The Detroit Lions showcased their skills on a different type of field Saturday and it was all for a good cause.

A little over two miles away from the team’s practice facility, over 20 players traded in their helmets and cleats for bats and gloves at the Lions’ annual charity softball game at King Boring Field.

The event, which is hosted by punter Sam Martin and defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson, pitted the team’s offense against the defense in a grudge match and home run derby.

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But more important than the bragging rights, proceeds from the event went toward the Sam Martin Foundation, which aims to enhance the lives of children with physical and mental disabilities and works with local animal welfare groups.

“It's twofold,” Martin said of the importance of the event. “For one, obviously, we raise a lot of money for my foundation, which helps support (what we do) throughout the year.

"And two, it's the end of the offseason and it's a nice way to interact with the fans a little bit. It’s something they don't get really until (training) camp. It's a good time to get the fans out here with the players.”

According to Martin, last year’s charity game raised more than $20,000. And that went a long way, helping his foundation put on a Christmas and Thanksgiving event, an early movie screening and other events with the Michigan Humane Society.

“It's nonstop,” said Martin, who was hoping to surpass last year's money mark. “We're constantly doing stuff, but we typically do about three or four big events a year that we raise money for, that are fundraisers for my foundation.”

Former receiver Derrick Williams started the annual game in 2010. Since then, the torch has been passed and carried by former linebacker Stephen Tulloch, former receiver Nate Burleson, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and, now, Martin, who is entering his sixth season with the Lions.

“It's weird. Even now I'm like, it's me. I'm the punter,” Martin said. “I always was with Nate and Tulloch and it was just sitting here. All the sponsors still wanted to do it so it just really needed a name to put on it. It was an easy thing for me to pick up last year.

“It's definitely a good feeling. I still have a bigger vision for my foundation but after five years, I like where we're at.”

Extra points

Martin put his money on quarterback Jake Rudock being one of the best players on the diamond and he turned out to be right.

Rudock was the lone player to clear the 300-foot fence during the home run derby, which featured three offensive and three defensive players. He hit one out to left-center field on his 10th and final swing to win the crown.

Safety Stefan McClure, defensive tackle Christian Ringo and defensive tackle Toby Johnson all came up empty, as did Martin and tight end Luke Willson, who came close with two warning-track shots.

Rudock also hit an inside-the-park home run and helped turn a double play during the game to earn MVP honors. And he did it all with his last name misspelled as "Ruddock" on the back of his jersey — with the extra 'D' eventually being crossed out in marker.

… In an effort to avoid a Clay Matthews situation, a pitching machine was used during the home run derby and a protective net was placed in front of the mound during the game.

Matthews, the Green Bay Packers linebacker, was struck in the face by a line drive and broke his nose while pitching in a charity softball game last week.